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It was one of those days. About 5:30pm, I was making a stop at Winn Dixie on my way home from work. No doubt the worst time to be in the grocery store, and just about my least favorite thing to do on the way home, but with three kids we go through a minimum of five gallons of milk a week and since I’m not making my own anymore…. there was nothing to do but stop.
I approached the milk case with a sigh. I was glad to be off of work and doing my best to keep my head up. My job in assisted living is a passion, a calling, and a blessing. It also has its difficult moments. Older people tend to throw tact to the wind, and sometimes kindness too, and our residents often give a running commentary on… well, anything and everything. We’ve all had a grandmother or elderly aunt who blurted out “You sure have put on weight,” or “Are you pregnant again?” right in the middle of the family dinner.
These types of remarks are commonplace where I work, and that’s ok. Normally, I let them slide, especially since the occasional “You’re putting on weight” is nothing compared to all the “Honey, you made my day” and “What would I do without you?” and “Sweetheart, you are looking good.” But on this particular day, perhaps it was my mood or elevated stress, I’m not sure, but it seemed as though everything was up for scrutiny, from my middle that needs some “toning up” to the size and placement of my breasts. “You still nursing honey? They’re hangin’ kinda low today. What kinda bra you wearin’?”
I stepped up to the milk cooler beside the milk man who was busy stocking the shelves. “Howya doin” he said without looking up and I answered back in kind as I reached out for a gallon of whole. I was pondering picking up a second gallon when he turned to me and said “You are so pretty.” I looked up at him and started to get tears in my eyes. “Thank you. You have just made my whole day,” I told him. He said “I didn’t expect you to come walkin’ up like that, and I didn’t expect to say that. It just came out. I’m usually shy about sayin’ stuff like that.” Sounds like a pickup line I guess, but I wish you could have heard his tone, very matter of fact, not a hint of suggestion. I thanked him again, not finding any better way to let him know how he had just been a gift to me.
I did grab the second gallon (maybe W/D would sell more milk with more milkmen like that one) and made my way to the checkout with a new outlook. I knew without a doubt that Mr. Winn Dixie Milkman had been a messenger from God to lift me up. A few weeks ago I had asked God to help me approach my marriage with more love, and one specific area I’d been working on is my arrival home from work. My family has normally been home for a few hours and they’re ready to play, often leaving me with no time to decompress from my day and transition to home. This can make for a grouchy wife and mom in that first half hour at home when they’re rarin’ to go and I just want to be left alone. That day, the Winn Dixie milk angel had given me a boost, a leg up from God to help me put my gloomy day behind me and greet the ones I love with my best and not the dregs of me that are left after a long day.
I have two observations from this:
1) How often I hold back a positive remark, and how often I’m free with negative ones. Thank God the milkman had the grace that evening to let the good thoughts come out. I needed to hear them. I want to tighten the weave of the sieve that catches my negative commentary and let the positive commentary virtually flow out unrestricted. So often the opposite is true. We never know what a kind word could mean to someone and it costs us nothing to give one.
2) When we ask God to work in our lives, He will do it. He’s a good Teacher, and even gives openbook tests sometimes! He might even use a Winn Dixie milk guy to give you a hint.
Hurry! What’s in your purse?
Alka Seltzer (the kind for colds AND the kind for stomachaches), an empty checkbook snugly tucked inside a checkbook holder. Cool wallet my mom got me, 4 pay stubs, car insurance bill, cool bag that holds my makeup, napkins (of course), a nail file, a few cards I wrote to friends and never mailed, a grilled cheese sandwich (not kidding), a couple of pens, 2 business card holders, sunglasses, a cell phone, keys, gum, a mini bottle of tylenol, about 3 slips of scrap paper on which I’ve made various notes and lists, plenty of crumbs in the bottom, a happy meal toy, and an old flight itinerary.
I snickered the other night as I tossed my overly filled, albeit adorable, Vera Bradley onto the passenger seat and headed home. Long famous for lugging around a purse that I could live out of for extended periods of time, I made a resolution when I purchased my new Vera. I wanted to keep it nice.
So I tossed my adorable purse onto the seat and giggled at its ridiculous contents. A grilled cheese? I mean, seriously. I spent a couple of minutes when I got home “resetting” my purse. Grilled cheese, crumbs, and any used napkins were evicted. Bills and cards went their appropriate directions, and my Levi was delighted with the happy meal toy.
Truly, I HAVE been pretty good about keeping my new Vera looking lovely. The grilled cheese wasn’t even stale! My little clean-out got me thinking about how my life is often like my purse in its random clutter and overly full nature. It only took a quick moment to re-set my purse and get it back in the right order. I think you’ll agree, many of the items I have in there ARE handy and useful. Just not when they can’t be found because they’re buried under unmailed cards, old pay stubs or grilled cheese sandwiches. It only took a short time to clean out the useless items so that the useful ones could actually be used.
As I considered this, I noticed a couple of things:
1) Regular, small clean-outs keep the purse (and the life) clean and functional. The trick is not to let it get so full that it becomes overwhelming. I have three still-cluttered purses sitting on my closet floor as proof of the fact that once it reaches a certain point, I’m much less likely to actually clean anything out and I lose functionality. Same goes for my schedule, my brain, and my to-do list.
2) Some things aren’t worth keeping and carrying around. Grilled cheese sandwiches, while they are delicious, do not belong in a purse on a long term basis. They don’t keep forever, you know, and they tend to get in the way of finding that set of keys or cell phone. Same goes for my life. Some unnecessary worries, fears, or even “good” things can seriously get in the way of finding those most important things, like ready smiles for my husband, patient words for my children and clear thinking at work.
I want to be more purposeful about letting go of those nagging things that are of no real use or worth to me, but still get in the way of my life’s functionality. Some time to pray, to breathe, and to weed out the things that don’t belong in my heart and mind is definitely on the daily must-do list.
If you’re a grilled cheese carrier too, may you find that same time to “re-set” your life today and every day.by
In light of the onslaught of negative publicity our city is no doubt receiving due to the unfortunate events of Halloween night, I thought I’d give you a list of my top ten reasons for loving New Orleans:
1) Kissing. Lots of kissing.
2) Muffalettas. Beautiful, wonderful, oily, olive-ey muffalettas. With the sesame seeds on top of the bread nice and toasty. Sigh.
3) Streetcars!! With the windows open, wind blowing in your hair on your way down St. Charles Ave.
5) Getting called “baby” (pronounced baaaaaaaayyybeh) “honey” “sugah” and “dawlin'” by pretty much everyone like grocery cashiers, doctors office receptionists, coworkers, friends…
6) Mardi Gras! Where else in the United States can you find a celebration of it’s kind?
7) Lenten menus. At Taco Bell.
8 ) King Cakes! Petit Fours! Snow Balls! Doberge! Beignets! Shoe soles! Pralines! This town is a paradise for a sugar lover like me.
9) French bread. This town is serious about french bread. From po-boys to pudding, french bread gets its warm, soft, crusty, delicious place of honor.
10) Parties and parades. This city will have a parade for anything, and a party for everything. There’s something to be said for celebrating life. Life’s pain will demand enough of our attention. Celebrating life’s pleasures is an art this town has mastered. There are lessons to be learned from that.
It ain’t all bad, this crazy town. There’s a lot to love here, too.
I’m just sayin….by
It’s My Life!
Riding bikes and baking cakes
Yummy steak my husband makes
Baby drifts off for a nap
Rocking sweet upon my lap.
Coming home, worked hard today.
“Mommy’s here!” the kids all say.
Homework’s done and dinner starts
Fill five tummies, warm five hearts.
Squeals of laughing, playing kids
“Honey, please unscrew this lid.”
Sign report cards, answer the phone
Can’t believe how much they’ve grown.
Friends are over, coffee’s hot
Soup is served up from the pot.
Prayers are said, hugs all around
Tears are shed and comfort found.
Teenage lip gloss sparkles bright
“Can I go?” ” Not yet, not quite!”
Three sweet faces, loved so much
Still need mom’s reassuring touch.
Grab the keys, get in the car
Running late, it’s not too far!
Happy meals and candlelight
Making up after a fight.
Folded laundry, warm and dry
Dirty pile still standing high.
Pop the top, our favorite drink,
Suds go sliding down the sink.
“Do we have to? Can’t we wait?”
“Pick up your room, get it all straight.”
Diapers, bottles, sweaty heads
“Get your baths and get to bed!”
All together, on one team
This is the stuff of my dreams.
Light the candles, be a wife,
Imperfect, perfect, it’s my life!
Reflecting on a quiet Saturday afternoon over the week I’ve had and realizing how blessed I am. Wrote this just for fun!by
One of our residents received a phone call this morning. Here’s how it went:
Nurse: Good morning, Ms. Edna, this is Sharon, Dr. Tipton’s nurse calling to do your pacemaker check over the telephone.
Ms. Edna: I’m NOT INTERESTED!! Click….
The nurse called me giggling and asked for some help getting Ms. Edna’s attention and helping her understand that the pacemaker check really isn’t an option. I giggled too, and thought how I wish I could cope with my problems that way.
To so many things, I’d just say “NOT INTERESTED” and hang it up!! But wait…. don’t I have that option? I mean, I can’t avoid my problems forever, but I don’t have to dwell on them and allow them to captivate my interest.
Here’s what I AM interested in: building a good marriage with my handsome husband, my beautiful children, awesome family and friends. I’m interested in a quiet afternoon to write, in a loud evening with the girls this Friday. I’m interested in the barely-intelligible things my toddler earnestly says to me and the unstoppable energy of my eight-year-old and the sweet secrets shared with my big girl of thirteen. I’m interested in God’s grace and what He might want to change about me. I’m interested in thanking Him for my blessings.
As for worry, stress, anger, bitterness, perfectionism, what other people say about me, and the unrealistic expectations I have for myself….. NOT INTERESTED!
Reason #7 Why I Can’t Say No: I’ve been so abundantly blessed.
Seriously. I’m so blessed it’s embarrassing. Sometimes I feel horrible saying “no” to a request, especially when it’s a “good cause,” because I know I’m so fortunate and I feel bad not pitching in for someone else. So I say “yes,” feeling guilty for having been blessed beyond what I deserve.
Here’s the problem with that: it’s based on guilt! UGH! Guilt, guilt, guilt! Seems like so much of my reasoning is based on those horrible feelings of guilt. Clearly not the way a God of such grace intended for me to live.
But then something happened.
Last weekend I said “yes” to something I didn’t really have time for on paper, but still felt I should do. Origins is providing a night of care each week to a friend of ours who is an incomplete quadripilegic due to an accident. We do this so his wife can get one full night’s sleep a week. I signed up to take a turn and last weekend was mine. Each time I discussed what I was doing with someone in the group, they raised a suspicious eyebrow and said something like “Are you sure?” or “How will you handle that and take care of the kids?”
I put my family to bed and then made the trip across Lake Ponchartrain to help some acquaintances who, that night, became my friends. Dwayne had to work early the next day, so Mackenzie, my oldest, pitched in on babysitting duty for an hour or so until I returned home the next morning. (So really our whole family pitched in to make this happen) Losing sleep wasn’t a problem since my little one still doesn’t sleep all night and my body is well-acquainted with getting up every few hours during the night. I dozed in between my every-other-hour cell phone alarms, when I would get up and turn my friend from side to side to avoid bedsores, help with changing bedding, bathroom needs, whatever issues came up. As I dozed on the couch and my cell would vibrate telling me it’s time to wake up and turn my friend, my eyes would open and invariably fall on a beautiful bronze sculpture by the door. It’s an artist’s rendering of Lazarus, standing triumphantly, arm overhead as he unravels his grave clothes. (See John chapter 11 for the whole story) I thought of Jesus and the many things He did on behalf of others when He walked the Earth. Nothing like one of Jesus’ most famous miracles right in my face all night to get my mind thinking about the things He did and my reasons for doing the things I do.
I thought, as I completed the very personal, potentially embarrassing tasks for my friend, of Jesus’ words in John 13:
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
I had said “yes” to this act of servanthood, not out of guilt this time, but because it is clearly, truly, one of those things that I KNOW Jesus would do. I love Him, and I want to be like Him, and performing an act of servanthood for another person that night, I knew I WAS being like Him. THAT’s a whole lot better reason than just “I feel guilty having so much so I’ll agree to do something for someone else.” Whadya know? Maybe I got it right, for once?
I have to say, it feels great to have said “yes” to something for the RIGHT reason. Why don’t I do that all the time? Why even allow my feelings of guilt into the equation? Why not simply ask God if this is what He would have me to do, and then proceed according to His instructions? Doing something as an act of love for Christ and my fellow-man sure created a different feeling than doing something out of a bad feeling of guilt.
Lesson learned: When I say “yes” for the right reason, it ADDS to my bond with Christ and my bond with those whom I serve. When I say “yes” for the wrong reason, I notice that the activity normally yields little to no growth in my spiritual life or in my relationship with those receiving services from me. This alone is reason enough to make SURE my yeses and no’s are based on healthy rationale.
Perhaps with this, Reason #7 Why I Can’t Say NO, and my last entry in the series, I’ve come across a formula or system for checking myself when I’m faced with an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to a task, commitment, or request. The activity should be something I can do out of love for God and others. It should bring me closer to Him and to them. This is a simple check but it applies in all situations, to all requests whether church, family, work, or socially related, and it rules out unhealthy reasonings such as guilt. Interestingly, my answer about when to say no, came through a time I said “yes!”
Hope this series has helped someone out there. It sure has made a difference for me. So what next?by
Reason #6 Why I Can’t Say No: There’s so much I want to DO!!!
I want to write another book. I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom. I’d also like a successful career in the workplace, plus pick up some speaking engagements here and there. I’d like to throw parties that are fun and full of intelligent conversation and laughter. I’d like to have a vibrant, romantic marriage, and I’d also like to devote myself tirelessly to my children. I want to make homemade bread, candlelit dinners, and have an organized, well-used coupon book. I’d just LOVE to own a cupcake store, and also possibly a barbecue joint. I’d like to host a women’s discussion group or book club, and be classroom parent for all of my children. I’d like to be a gym rat, never missing exercise and I’d also like to lie around eating sweets. I’d like to make cherry pie from scratch. I’d like to host holiday dinners at my home on my holiday dishes, ones with cute little fall leaves for thanksgiving, and some with holly berries on them for Christmas. I’d like to use cloth napkins. I’d like to help a friend out every day. I’d like to keep a coffee pot hot at all times for all the friends who stop by to talk and I’d like to send them away encouraged, loved, and lighter in spirit. I’d also like to sit around my local Starbucks looking funky with my laptop and glasses, noticed for my good looks but left alone to create beautiful words. I’m growing my hair out and I’d like to have my pixie back. I’d like to play music with my friends in a smoky little bar in the quarter somewhere, what with all my jazz piano skills, right? Maybe I’d better just sip my drink and listen. I’d like to be thin and wear heels, but I love my curves and a comfy pair of jeans. I’d like to drive a red mustang, but a minivan is on my wishlist too. I want a porch with rocking chairs attached to a dear old house and a sleek apartment uptown.
So, never you mind, my friends, if I have to say no to something you ask me to do. Trust completely that the DESIRE to say yes is in me. I really, really want to experience everything life has to offer. I’d like to do everything, be everything, try everything. I just plain love living, and sometimes I say yes to too many things simply because I really DO want to do it all!
Awww, all those things are nice to think about and dream of. Here’s what I know: I have a family who loves me, a relatively healthy body, and a mind that is still clinging to some shreds of its sanity. I have what I need. What am I complaining about to be so abundantly blessed, to have SO much potential for enjoyment and not enough time to enjoy it all? Pppshhhh!
How about I just enjoy it? And when those times come along when I have to select from a group of blessings and possibilities just one or two things that realistically fit into my life, I’ll simply whisper words of gratitude to the One who has seen fit to bless me beyond my wildest dreams. I’ll trust that He has numbered my days in just the way He knows they should be, and I’ll ask Him not to let me miss those experiences He created for me alone. No more feeling like I fall short for saying No. Saying no is just evidence that I’m blessed beyond capacity. Who, after all, wouldn’t want that?by
Reason #5 Why I Can’t Say No: I hate the sound of that word.
Ugh. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Saying “no” is SO unattractive. I’m not just talking about a toddler’s “no!” during a tantrum, though that’s irritating. I’m mostly speaking of adult conversation, really, where sentences begin with the word “no”. I once learned in a sales course NEVER to begin a sentence with that word, and for the record, they were RIGHT.
Negativity is exhausting. It weighs down the corners of a smile, puts a sag in the shoulders and a shuffle in the once-springy step.
“No, I can’t,” or WORSE “No, YOU can’t.” Just completely unnecessary ways of putting it. To me, the word “no” is somewhat like a curse word, in that it’s a default word for some, but there are MUCH more creative and pleasant ways of putting things when one puts forth the effort to do so.
So how does a person say “no” when she hates the sound of the word? I’m glad you asked! For your use, (and mine) I’ll provide below a list of suggested alternatives to the word “no.”
- I wish I could.
- Right now, it just won’t fit on my plate.
- I have another idea!
- I’ll have to pass on this. (My favorite, and by far the most effective. Got it from one of my heroes.)
- This is special, and deserves more than I’m able to give right now.
- Ask me again next month. (or year, or century!)
- Let’s try this instead…
- I have all I can handle right now.
- My cup is already overflowing!
- I can’t fit it in.
- I don’t want to disappoint you, but I just can’t.
- It wouldn’t be wise for me to commit to another thing at this time.
- May I recommend ………..?
- Thank you for asking me! Unfortunately I have to say no at this time.
- I’m so honored you thought of me! I’m sad that I have to say no. (See how much more palatable it is at the END of the sentence?)
- …………. just isn’t my specialty.
- I’m keeping my resolution not to take on more than I can handle.
- Awww, man! I can’t!
- Keep me in mind for ………., but …………. just isn’t for me.
And there we have it. More than enough for a complete arsenal of pleasant ways to refuse a request. Use them, my friends, they are free for the taking. Anybody got one I didn’t think of?by
Reason #4 Why I Can’t Say No: I can’t stand admitting that I can’t.
On the outside, friends, you might think I’m just the girl next door. You see me come and go, live a relatively quiet life, and you never know my secret. My deep, dark, disgusting secret. Until now, because I’m about to tell you: I’m a raging lunatic perfectionist.
My husband and my closest of friends are snickering because they had that figured out LONG before I. Maybe others are raising an eyebrow. After all, it’s not like being around me is like an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t go around screaming or firing people who don’t live up to my expectations. In truth, the most insane perfectionist expectations I reserve for myself alone.
I hold myself to a standard that is beyond ridiculous. So much so that I often find myself frustrated with other people who seem to be ok with themselves even as they behave in less than perfect ways. How do they let themselves off the hook so easily? Not so for me! I seem to know no other way but ON the hook. So terribly, irreversibly ON the hook.
Even in areas where it seems I’m laissez-faire, I’m still beating myself up inside. Keeping a perfect house, for example, has forever been beyond my reach. So in that case, I just don’t try. Rather than continue to try and fail, I elect not to try. Ditto for my desk. It’s a perpetual state of chaos and I do not have the energy to continue to attempt another failed organizational strategy. I laugh sometimes that I’m like Pigpen on Charlie Brown. An ongoing cloud of stuff just follows me. I don’t mean to create it and I’m not sure where it comes from but it’s always there. On the outside, it seems to others that I don’t care. Just last week, a coworker moved several things on my desk. Her explanation was “just trying to make you a little neater.” I smiled and said nothing. But inside me was a cauldron of humiliation and frustration because I really do expect more from myself, and sincerely do wish I had a neater desk. I joke about it sometimes, but the truth is that it’s frustrating to me to have not yet conquered my “pigpen” type qualities.
Same goes when I have to admit that I can’t do something. Whether it’s that I don’t have time, ability, or even the interest, saying “no” means I admit that I’m less than perfect, and um…. I hate that.
Hold on to your hats because I’m about to blow this whole thing up by admitting the truth: THIS IS NOTHING BUT PRIDE. Nothing at all except me wanting to be in the front of the line, every time. Nothing except me wanting the satisfaction of being the best. Not me, showing mercy to other poor less-than-perfect souls by letting them off easier. Nope. It’s me holding myself to a higher standard because I LIKE THINKING I’M THE BEST.
Totally and completely opposite of the way a daughter of the Most High God should be. (Pride’s first on the list of things He hates, you know.)
Any of you who are still reading after seeing in print such an awful truth about me, thank you. So what now? Check this out:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It’s grace, my friends. The ultimate price was paid for me when I was completely oblivious. You too. No need to be in front. No need to be the best. No need to beat myself up for failing to achieve whatever my latest unrealistic expectation happens to be. I’ve been loved, accepted, and declared OK already and it had nothing to do with me. I simply had to accept it for the gift that it is. That kind of enormous gift makes my need to be first and best seem so silly, doesn’t it? Why all that trying for a fleeting feeling of self-satisfaction when there is a much more abiding and steady confidence that can be mine through no effort of my own? God’s plan sure seems easier when it’s put that way, huh? Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant by the whole “my burden is LIGHT” thing.
And since I no longer have anything to prove, seeing as how Jesus did it all FOR me, since I know that not wanting to admit my imperfections is really an imperfection in itself, and a BIG one at that, Reason #4 is officially defunct.